Institute for Advanced Study (IAS)

Simulating the Origins of Life (in silico)



In this expert meeting, computational and experimental researchers will discuss the development of a computational origins simulator.

The origin of life was not a single and instantaneous event, but a sequence of chemical transformations and innovations that happened over a long period of time and under various specific environmental circumstances. Although individual steps in this process are being studied experimentally, we are still far away from being able to set up laboratory experiments to capture this entire sequence of events in one continuous flow.

Computational methods have been used successfully in many areas of research (including physics, chemistry, and biology) to gain a better understanding of complex phenomena and systems, to predict their behavior, and to help in designing relevant laboratory experiments. Given the current state of origin of life research, computational methods are undoubtedly of great help here too.

Developing an in-silico origins simulator

The Origins Center of the Netherlands has recently granted the IAS seed funding to create a working group with the aim of developing a computational origins simulator, in parallel with (and complementary to) the experimental simulator that is designed and built as part of the Origins Center’s "gamechanger" projects.

The computational simulator will span the range from prebiotic chemistry to reproducing and evolving protocells. It will consist of several modules that can be used to simulate important individual steps in possible origin of life scenarios, and which could potentially be coupled together to study sequences of events over time.

This initiative involves computational modellers from the University of Amsterdam, experimental geoscientists from the University of Utrecht, experimental/computational chemists from the University of Groningen, and selected other interested researchers.



About the Origins Center

The Origins Center aims to bring together a broad range of scientific disciplines to address one of the biggest challenges in science: the origin, or origins, of life on earth and in the universe.

Its mission is to spark and facilitate transdisciplinary research between scientists associated with Dutch universities and research institutes to develop game-changing understanding of the origin of life and of life-bearing planets, predicting evolution, building and steering life from molecule to biosphere, finding extra-terrestrial life and developing the mathematical understanding needed for bridging large spatial, temporal and organisatorial scale differences.

Published by  UvA Institute for Advanced Study